Sunday, September 24, 2017

WOMEN IN STEM: Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock, (1902-1992) was an American scientist and cytogeneticist whose area of work lead her to make discoveries in the field of genetics and medicine. As a child McClintock, enjoyed the sciences and was greatly influenced by her father as he was a physician. After high school, she decided to major in biology at Cornell University. She received a B.S. in 1923, earned her master’s degree two years later, and, having specialized in cytology, genetics, and zoology, she got a Ph.D. in 1927. In 1931, McClintock and a colleague (Harriet Creighton)  published “A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-over in Zea mays,” which was a paper that established that chromosomes made up the  basis of genetics. McClintock was elected vice president of the Genetics Society of America in 1939 and president of the Genetics Society in 1944 for her discoveries during the 1930’s. In the 1940s, through experimentation with variations in the coloring of kernels of corn, McClintock discovered that genetic information is not stationary. She isolated two genes that she called “controlling elements”; these genes controlled the genes that were responsible for pigmentation. McClintock’s discoveries were ahead of the scientific community and she didn’t get recognition until later years. In 1983, she won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and she was the first woman to be the sole winner of this award.

Quote: “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off... no matter what they say.”

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